BL&T No. 153: Understanding Secondary Client Stakeholders

Agency Leadership

This post originally appeared in my newsletter, Borrowed, Learned, & Thought. BL&T is a weekly newsletter sent on Mondays. In every edition, I share weekly themes and progress in running an agency business/team and doing my best to live a good life. Published posts do not include all details shared via email to subscribers. Subscribe here.

Borrowed & Learned

"Raving Fans: A Revolutionary Approach to Customer Service" is a timeless business fable by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles. It challenges the notion that having satisfied customers is good enough and offers a simple framework for transforming your customers into promoters, or should I say—raving fans.

Seeking direction, the central character, known simply as Area Manager, is visited by a fairy-like mentor named Charlie. He takes Area Manager on a journey to uncover the three magic secrets to creating raving fans:

  1. Decide What You Want: Imagine what an unparalleled experience looks like for your customers. Start with the customer and consider every detail in your vision.
  2. Discover What the Customer Wants: The key is for your vision to be one with your customers. To do this, seek feedback and listen to customers. Focus on understanding their wants and needs to ensure your services are aligned.
  3. Deliver Plus One: Once you know what will resonate with customers, deliver on those expectations. Then go above and beyond what they anticipate. Look for that extra 1% to turn your customers into your best promoters.

All of this talk about customers reminded me of a passage from a book called "Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done" by Larry Bossidy, Ram Charan, and Charles Burck. The book emphasizes the importance of effective execution— underscoring that even the most strategic plan falters without sound implementation. Put differently, you can have an incredible customer-aligned vision, but it's worth nothing if you can't deliver.

It's no surprise the customer-centric approach is also apparent in the book, acknowledging the often overlooked influence of the customer's customer:

"Who is the customer’s customer? Or even the customer’s customer’s customer? His demands or problems are going to affect your customer. Many people look myopically at their primary customers and don’t pay enough attention to the customers who ultimately determine demand for their products."

Looking back on my role as a designer, I remember constantly seeking a delicate balance between managing the client's feedback and the ever-evolving needs of their customers. While these factors ideally align, it would sometimes take insights from customer interviews or user testing to get clients on board with a customer-centric solution.

While I no longer design client websites, I see this concept across the agency every day. We may be working with one or two primary stakeholders; however, there are other stakeholder types, like the customer, to consider in everything we do. Understanding these secondary stakeholders and in some cases forming relationships with them is critical for successful client collaboration and work output.

Over the years, I've seen many of these secondary roles play pivotal a role in our work. Sometimes, we were ready for them; other times, they came in out of nowhere and threw us off track. We've learned to embrace them in our process.

Here's a look at the stakeholders that come to mind and what they prioritize. I'll use a website redesign project to anchor their priorities.

E-Commerce Director: The E-Commerce Director, or similar role, is often our primary stakeholder. They want a redesign that improves the user experience, increases conversion rates, and drives higher sales. They're interested in improving website speed, streamlining the purchasing process, enhancing website navigation, and providing analytics to measure the effectiveness of the redesign. Their team is likely managing the website so having an easy content management system will be critical. With the redesign project as the E-Commerce Director's focus, its success will carry weight in their performance evaluation.

Executive Leadership (Co-Founder, CEO, CMO, etc): Executive Leadership is concerned with the alignment of the website redesign to the brand's strategic goals. They want to ensure that the redesign enhances the brand's image, supports its value proposition, and contributes to the company's growth. They'll also look for ways the redesign can differentiate from competitors and provide a competitive edge. Despite having a firm perspective, Executive Leadership may not be closely involved throughout the project, only showing up at major milestones. Getting too far without getting their input can risk throwing the project off later on.

Investors / Parent Company: These stakeholders will be interested in the potential ROI from the website redesign. They want to see that the redesign leads to increased revenue, profitability, and market share. Clear plans for measuring and demonstrating the impact of the redesign on key business metrics will be important to them. Investor and parent company stakeholders rarely get involved in the project but primary client stakeholders will feel the pressure of their requests and objectives. Surfacing these ideas can help ease tension on the project and better understand client decision-making.

Customers: Customers' primary concern is usability and satisfaction. Among specific product needs, they care about a user-friendly design, intuitive navigation, fast loading times, and a website that works well across different devices. Customers also value personalized recommendations and easy checkout. While best practices go a long way, not taking the time to understand customers can be a missed opportunity to deepen customer trust while driving revenue for the brand.

Individual Contributors or Other Departments: Individual contributors from various departments have specific concerns related to their roles. For instance:

  • Marketing is interested in a website that showcases product benefits, supports changing campaigns, and integrates with marketing tools.
  • Sales might prioritize a catalog to reference for other channels, a seamless checkout, and upselling and cross-selling opportunities.
  • Customer Service values features that make it easy for customers to find information, contact support, and receive assistance when needed.
  • Brand & IT is concerned with how the new website will fit within their current workflows and processes.
  • Each department views the customer from a unique lens and can offer a distinct perspective on what customers value. Getting their input early can positively impact the success of the redesign project, from a results and collaboration perspective.

Channel Partners: Channel partners, such as vendors and tech platforms, want the client to be successful with their solution. Their concerns range from proper implementation to integration with existing systems. Involving these teams in the agency's process can ensure the client gets complete value from their solution.

Other Agencies: Other agencies involved, like marketing agencies or design firms, are concerned with maintaining consistency across all aspects of the brand's image and message. Collaboration, clear communication, and the seamless integration of their work with the website redesign is important to them.

Thought

What secondary stakeholders am I overlooking? How might they play a role in the success of our work?

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The E-Commerce Corner

Read here: Focusing on the Right Customers

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